Storage Containers

Storage Containers

How to Find the Best Deal on Quality Used Shipping Containers

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shipping containers

Shipping containers come in handy when you need to store overstock product, materials, or equipment for safekeeping or future transport. But the cost of a new container - currently ranging from $1,800 to $4,500 depending on the size and features - can discourage many small- to mid-range businesses from buying one.

Fortunately, many dealers offer used shipping containers at a fraction of the cost of their newer counterparts. On average, you can expect to pay anywhere from $1,200 to $1,800 for a 20-foot used shipping container, with noticeable evidence of wear, to $2,800 to $3,700 for a quality "like new" container of the same size. Best of all, many of these "like new" models are virtually indistinguishable from new units.

But within that price range, there are a number of things to be on the lookout for (and a few to avoid!). Keep the following standards in mind when evaluating used shipping containers.

Used shipping container criteria

Start by selecting from standard sizes. Standard shipping containers are 8 feet wide and the most common are those that measure 20 feet or 40 feet long. Extended models, known as high cube or simply "HC" are usually available in both of those lengths as well as a 45-foot length. These typically include a few extra inches of clearance for loading equipment or large items.

But in addition to its size, the condition of a used shipping container is one of the most significant contributors to its cost. Usually determined by the number of trips the container has made, you can evaluate a used container through the following standard designations and their respective criteria:

One Trip / New

The container was manufactured (most likely in China) and shipped to the vendor. It's being sold to you relatively quickly after manufacturing and should be free of any markings, dents, or other damage.


No longer considered "new", this nevertheless indicates a quality used shipping container that is well suited for shipping domestically or overseas. This designation also indicates that it's wind- and watertight and is structurally sound.

Wind- and Watertight

As the label implies, the container stands up to both wind and water. However, when listed by itself, this indication also implies that a qualified surveyor has not inspected the container to ensure its structure is cargo-worthy.

Corten Steel

Designed for containers stored or transported in inclement weather or near the ocean, this weathering steel is a relatively new material and becoming popular for construction projects for its ability to stand up to extreme environments without rust or corrosion.

Factory Paint

This might not be important to you if you want a freshly-painted cargo container. But it's worth noting that containers are often refurbished to correct paint that has peeled due to rust. The factory designation implies the unit has only been painted once and therefore would reveal any rust or corrosion if present.

No Shipping Label

If you're leaving the container within view of customers or the public, you may want to ensure it's not emblazoned with another company's name and logo. "No shipping label" implies that the unit is most likely painted a single color and has no other markings.


BuyerZone Buyer Beware: This should serve as a red flag unless you're not concerned with the integrity of the container's interior. An "as-is" used shipping container will typically have chipped paint, minor or major damage and dents, and may even leak. Pay particular attention to any damage located on the ends or corners of the container as this may have compromised its structural integrity. This container is most likely cheap for a reason.

Additional considerations

Vendors collect previously-owned containers and restore them by replacing broken parts, repairing dents, and applying a fresh coat of new paint. The used container itself features a unique identification number located on the CSC plate - the plate affixed to the left-hand door of the container that lists the container's manufacturing information. Similar to a vehicle's VIN, the CSC plate will tell you exactly how old the container is. This way, you don't have to worry that you're getting a weathered old container that's simply been repainted.

In addition to the items mentioned above, there are a few things to be aware of, and a couple that you may even want to inspect yourself before purchase. These include:

Are you ready to find the right used shipping containers for your business? Submit a free request for shipping containers price quotes, and we'll match you up with as many as six different suppliers that will walk you through your options and determine the best solution for your storage needs.

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